Tag Archives: favorite

Mystery Books

I like mysteries, though I prefer the kind without gore. In fact, my second book is a fantasy/mystery mash-up (but we aren’t talking about that today). Here are some of my favorite mysteries. I’ve sorted them by approximate age group, but otherwise they are in random order.

Juvenile (there’s cross over between here and YA)

Robert Newman’s Case of… series, which has loose ties to Sherlock Holmes (but is better) (I had to buy these second-hand because I was borrowing them too often)

The Case of the Marble Monster, by I.G. Edmonds

Sammy Keyes series, by Wendelin Van Draanen (until the last one)

Brixton Brothers series, by Max Barnett

The Puzzle Book & Mathemagic, Childcraft

The Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee Stewart

Echo Falls series, by Peter Abrahams

The early Box Car Children books, by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Cat Royal series, by Julia Golding

The Happy Hollisters series, by Jerry West

Encyclopedia Brown series, by Donald J. Sobol

A Murder for Her Majesty, by Beth Hilgartner

Young Adult

The Agency series, by Y.S. Lee

Enola Holmes series, by Nancy Springer

The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner

Knight & Rogue series, by Hilari Bell

Montmorency series, by Eleanor Updale

Rhiannon, by Vicki Grove

Too Much Information, by Dale Britton

Blossom Culp series, by Richard Peck

The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Trixie Belden series, by Julie Campbell  & Kathryn Kenny (it’s hard to get your hands on the later ones)

Stranje House series, by Kathleen Baldwin

Samurai Detective series, by Dorothy Hoobler

The Star of Kazan, by Eva Ibbotson

Adult

The early Aunt Dimity books, by Nancy Atherton (the late ones aren’t BAD, just a little duller)

Meg Langslow series & Turing Hopper series, by Donna Andrews (who really should finish the Turing series! *hint hint*)

Sherlock Holmes series, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Frank Shaw series, by John D. Brown (I’m afraid I could never finish his fantasies)

The Falconer’s Knot, by Mary Hoffman

Mrs. Pollifax series, by Dorothy Gilman

Sacred Ground, by Mercedes Lackey

The Lady & the Highwayman, by Sarah M. Eden

The Cuckoo’s Egg, by Clifford Stoll (true story)

Mary Russell series, by Laurie King (IMO, the best new Sherlock Holmes series for adults)

This Just In, by Kerry Blair

Brother Cadfael series, by Ellis Peters (also a TV series which isn’t bad)

 

So, did anything look interesting to you? What is your favorite mystery?

Happy sleuthing,
Marty C. Lee

Funny Books

Just for the fun of it, I’m declaring March to be Comedy Month. Well, right here on my website, anyway. So here’s a list of books I found to be amusing. (Some of them have made it on other lists.)

Children’s Comedy

The Skippy-Jon Jones series, by Judy Schachner

Pigeon series, by Mo Willems

Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp Monster, by Mercer Mayer (if you can read it with an accent, it’s a great touch)

Juvenile Comedy

The Great Brain series, by John D. Fitzgerald (based on true stories, no less…)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson

Pippi Longstocking series, by Astrid Lindgren

Ramona series & Henry Huggins series, by Beverly Cleary

The Case of the Mistaken Identity, by Mac Barnett

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex (so, so much better than the movie)

Teen Comedy (the line between Juvenile & Teen can be iffy, so feel free to pull from both categories)

Goldfish, by Nat Luursema

Chickens in the Headlights, by Matthew Buckley (also based on true stories)

Homer Price series, by Robert McCloskey

Howl’s Moving Castle series, by Diana Wynn Jones

The Girl Who Invented Romance, and Hit the Road, by Caroline B. Cooney

Romeo and Juliet–Together (and Alive!) at Last, by Avi

Janette Rallison

Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman

Adult Comedy

The List, by Melanie Jacobson

Phule’s Company series, by Robert Asprin (content warning: adult content)

A Night of Blacker Darkness, by Dan Wells

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey

And Then You’re Dead: What Really Happens If You Get Swallowed by a Whale, Are Shot from a Cannon, or Go Barreling Over Niagara, by Cody Cassidy

Enchanted, Inc series, by Shanna Swendson

 

What books have made you laugh hard enough to cry?
Marty C. Lee

Favorite Romance Books

Since Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, I thought I’d talk about some favorite romances. I don’t read steamy romance, so if that’s your style, you’ll need to get a list from someone else. I’ll try to remember to update this every year. You can remind me. 😉 Please don’t consider this a comprehensive list. Also, as you read “what I liked less,” remember that these made my favorites list, so their faults are pretty minor.

Romance (clean)

most of Georgette Heyer’s romances (with The Masqueraders at the top of the list). What I like: believable situations, engaging characters with a wide variety of physical and personality traits, fun historical settings, and people who fall in love for realistic reasons. What I like less: slower plots, lots and lots of historical vocabulary.

Juliane Donaldson. What I like:  I once described her books to someone as “Georgette Heyer with a faster plot and a simpler vocabulary.” What I like less: the faster plot doesn’t allow as much time for emotional development, though she does well with what she has.

Sarah M. Eden. What I like: most of the same things I like about Donaldson, honestly. What I like less: sometimes she succumbs to the lure of a love triangle.

Lynn Kurland, until recently. What I like: lots of emotion, funny dialogue, characters you love to love. What I like less: sometimes repetitive, and when she’s having a bad year, it all falls apart.

Mary Robinette Kowal. What I like: Regency romance with magic. Plus realistic characters. What I like less: Stupid pride. Also, I want to smack several parents.

Suzanne Weyn and Cameron Dokey (not co-authors, but write for the same series). What I like: fairy tales with a twist, well-written with good characters. What I like less: depends on the book, but sometimes the fairy tale is twisted pretty far out of shape.

A Death-Struck Year, by Makiia Lucier. What I like: a realistic YA romance that doesn’t include soulmates, love at first sight, or purely physical attraction. What I like less: since it’s about the Spanish Flu, it’s pretty sad.

Ann Turnbull. What I like: quiet Quaker love and standing up for what’s right. What I like less: sometimes heavy on history at the expense of the characters.

The Ordinary Princess, by M. M. Kaye. What I like: a princess with character, a romance based on friendship, and such realistic, fun-to-love characters. What I like less: um… it’s too short. 😉

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. What I like: an ordinary girl in an extraordinary situation who solves her own problems with strength of will. What I like less: reading the other languages, and the total mess the movie was.

Silver Woven in My Hair, by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. What I like: a romance based on friendship, and an ordinary girl who doesn’t give up. (Okay, so I have a “type.” I bet you do, too.) What I like less: I wanted to see the throne scene in person instead of flashback, thank you very much.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, by Barbara Cohen. What I like: a romance based on friendship, an intelligent girl, a family who loves each other. What I like less: the jerky cousins, of course.

Beauty, by Robin McKinley. What I like: by now, if I say it’s my “type,” you know what I mean, right? 😉 What I like less: the ending was too abrupt. (Rose Daughter is also quite good, though different.)

Carla Kelly (some of them). I have to put a warning on this one. She used to write according to publisher’s dictates, and those books do not fit my “clean” standard. When she got popular enough, she started writing the way she wanted, and those are the ones I like. So just be careful, and if you find one that shocks you that I recommended it, it’s not one I recommended… What I like: realistic characters, fun situations, believable love. What I like less: picking up the wrong book of hers and being appalled.

Kathleen Baldwin. What I like: humor, gumption, and a refreshing lack of love at first sight in YA romance. What I like less: withholding secrets.

Janette Rallison. What I like: contemporary YA with more humor than angst. What I liked less: not much depth beyond the “life lesson moral.”

Earth Girl series, by Janet Edwards. What I like: YA sci-fi on Earth with a spunky heroine and a hero who won’t give up. What I like less: some things are very convenient—too convenient—including the heroine’s ever-ready answers.

Karen Witemeyer. What I like: non-Regency historical, realistic characters and motivations. What I like less: sometimes their actions don’t match their motivations.

Tiffany Odekirk. Contemporary romance. What I like: characters with real problems to overcome. What I like less: sometimes kind of depressing.

Jessica Day George. What I like: fun characters and loving families. What I like less: a bit scant on emotion. (Sorry, Jessica. Don’t worry, I’ll still read the next one.)

Shanna Swendson. What I like: what if the real world actually had magic? Plus fun characters. What I liked less: sometimes she lost track of the fun stuff.

Kerry Blair. What I like: the romance is the subplot, and there’s always something else going on. What I like less: sometimes I have to scratch my head about the convenient coincidences.

Liz McCraine. What I like: fun characters, lots of magic, happy endings. What I like less: sometimes a little too YA.

Carol Malone. What I like: historical fiction from the 50’s that captures the cadence of the time as well as the vocabulary, plenty of danger in the plot. What I like less: I’m not a big sports fan.

Do you have a favorite to recommend to me? 😀
M. C. Lee

Self-Help Books

In honor of New’s Year goals, and because my sister was asking, here’s a list of some of my favorite self-help books. I haven’t included “help me understand myself” or “help me with parenting/marriage,” though I do have posts about those (click for the links). I also didn’t include religious books, but I do recommend religion as a way to improve yourself.

I’ve sorted the list by the goal you might be making. Other than that, it’s in random order.

“I want to get stuff done.”

The Power of When: Discover your chronotype and maximise your potential, by Michael Breus. What is the best time of day for you to do different things? Based on your wake/sleep cycle and body chemistry. If you’ve heard of early bird/night owl, this is the same kind of thing, but with four choices and actual explanations.

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by Roy F. Baumeister, John Tierney. This is less of a body book and more of a brain book. I can’t possibly be the only person who wants to understand my brain, can I?

“I want to make better decisions.”

*Choose Your Own Adulthood: A Small Book about the Small Choices that Make the Biggest Difference, by Hal Edward Runkel. Because even adults can get more adult-ish.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely. Why we sometimes trip ourselves in our thinking, and what to do about it.

How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer. If you want to understand more about the processes of decision-making. Yes, I like brain books…

“I want to do better with my money.”

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, by Dave Ramsey. I’m sure there are other great finance books, but this is one of the first I recommend to anyone. It starts with the basics.

“I want to figure out what to do with my life.”
(This is a rather loose category, sorry.)

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. What makes someone the best of the best. Okay, so it might not actually help you figure out what to do with your life, but maybe it will help you see some talents and potential you overlooked.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield. This is the book I credit for pushing me the final step toward author. No, he doesn’t talk about writing, just about life and going for what you want.

*Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, by Kelly Williams Brown. Doesn’t help you pick a profession, but could help you do better at general “life.”

*Warning: one of the “Adulthood/Adulting” books swears. I’d tell you which, but I can’t remember.

Feel free to leave your favorite goal in the comments, or recommend a book I might like.
Happy New Year, happy reading, and good luck with your goals!

M. C. Lee

Christmas Reading List

Since Christmas is coming, I thought I’d list some of my favorite “Christmas” books. Some are set at Christmas-time, some are about Christmas, and some are about THE Christmas.

Set at Christmas

Marian’s Christmas Wish, by Carla Kelly. Adult Regency romance. Less fluffy than some of the genre. What I like best: the heroine is brave and determined and makes the hero change his mind about what he wants (with her brain, not her fluttering eyelashes).

Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series. Adult mystery. She has several Christmas volumes out by now, so pick one. The mystery is good, the humor is better.

The Thirteen Days of Christmas, by Jenny Overton. Young adult historical romance. Annaple’s suitor woos her with gifts. Mildly sweet, heavily funny.

About Christmas (loosely speaking)

The Silent Bells, by William MacKellar & Ted Lewin. Juvenile historical fiction. The cathedral bells are silent, but there’s a legend that one day they will ring again if the right gift is presented on Christmas.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Historical fiction. You know, the one about Ebenezer Scrooge. Although a little heavy-handed, it’s also a classic for a reason.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson. Juvenile contemporary. When the worst kids in town take over the annual Christmas pageant, the results are both absolutely hilarious and extremely touching.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss. Juvenile poetry. If you’ve only seen the movie remakes, you are seriously missing out. (The cartoon based directly on the book is good.) This is the classic, and it’s a classic for a reason.

The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas, by Madeline L’Engle. Juvenile contemporary. Vicky’s baby sibling is due around Christmas, but she doesn’t want it if it means Mother will be gone. A sweet Advent book.

The First Christmas

Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher. Juvenile historical fiction. A young lady (disguised as a boy) and her younger brother with prophetic dreams join the Magi to visit the newborn Christ. I read it as a Beehive Award nominee, and it was one of my favorites that year.

How Far to Bethlehem? by Norah Lofts. Adult historical fiction. This story of the Magi is not as well-written (a bit dry & awkward), but the characters are compelling and the story is touching.

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey. Told from the point of view of the rebellious donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem, this is another hilarious-but-touching story.

Luke 2, in The Holy Bible. The ultimate classic story of Christmas. 😉

What’s your favorite Christmas story?

Merry Christmas,
M. C. Lee

Thanksgiving Reading List

I’m very thankful for my family, so in honor of Thanksgiving, I decided to post a list of some of my favorite books about families. I’ve limited it to fiction (or easy-to-read biography), not nonfiction/self-help/parenting.

In random order, but categorized for your convenience, here are a dozen suggestions for your Thanksgiving reading pleasure.

Contemporary (or close):

Cheaper by the Dozen/Belles on Their Toes, by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (Biography. Hilariously funny, tremendously moving, and not even in the same class as the stupid new movies.)

Chickens in the Headlights, by Matthew Buckley (Biography. Also hilariously funny.)

Ramona Quimby series, by Beverly Cleary (Such an accurate portrayal of the ups AND downs of family life.)

Dear Lola: Or How to Build Your Own Family, by Judie Angell (A bunch of orphans face off the world to form their own family.)

North of Beautiful, by Christina Chen (A girl with a birthmark learns about true beauty and love.)

Historical:

The Glamorist Histories series, by Mary Robinette Kowal (“Jane Austen meets magic,” but so intertwined with family drama. Could also be filed under fantasy.)

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (A confined girl is finally set free of her rooms and discovers what family should actually be like.)

The Five Little Peppers, by Margaret Sydney (Okay, so it’s pretty old-fashioned, but I love the way the siblings love each other so much.)

Fantasy:

Ordinary Magic, by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway (When an ordinary girl is born into a magical family, what will they do with her?)

Castle Glower series, by Jessica Day George (When you’re an ordinary princess in an extraordinary family, how do you find a place for yourself?)

The Princesses of Westfalin Trilogy, by Jessica Day George (The 12 Dancing Princesses, but better. And the series continues with other fairy tale retellings, so how can you go wrong?)

The Leland Sisters series, by Marissa Doyle (Historical YA romance, with sisters who are always there for each other.)

What are you thankful for this year? What book has made you the most thankful for something in your life?

Happy Thanksgiving (early),
M. C. Lee

Strong Heroines

I was thinking about my last book post and that started me thinking about what makes a character, particularly a woman, strong. Now, I know men and women are just people, and a strong character is a strong character regardless of gender. (Did you stop throwing tomatoes yet?) But sometimes some people think a “strong woman” has to be strong physically, or good with weapons, or compete in a “man’s world.”

Since that’s never what I’ve thought, I wanted to talk about my definitions.

Let’s start with the difference between “strong” and “gentle,” since some people think someone can’t be both. Here’s what I decided. “Strong” is how well you resist pressure exerted on you. “Gentle” is how much pressure you exert on others. So while the terms are related, the direction of the pressure is important, and one person can be both at the same time.

Now, back to our heroines (and heroes). Is a strong warrior a strong person? Maybe, maybe not. The neighborhood bully that threatens people with his sword might be a strong warrior, but he isn’t a strong person. The unarmed traveler who gently refuses to comply with the demands of a robber is a strong person. (Possibly a dead strong person, but we can hope not.)

I’m going to borrow some of the heroes/heroines from last month’s post as examples. 🙂 And yes, I cheated and threw in a couple of men. Strong is strong.

In The Great and Terrible Quest, the two main protagonists (heroes) are a wounded knight and a young boy. The knight is physically strong enough to fight multiple enemies, climb a cliff without a rope, and keep moving after enemies split his head. That’s not what impresses me most about him, though. He continues on his quest for ten years(!) through near-death and total memory loss, not to gain a reward for himself, but to give his own inheritance to the true owner. Wow, that’s strength of character. As for the little boy, he has very little physical strength (he is just a little boy), but he defies his robber-baron grandfather and the entire robber band to save an injured cat and then the wounded knight. He risks his life (Grandfather is a dangerous jerk) to save others, and he leads the knight ever onward despite enemies at every turn and almost no help from the knight. His strong determination and faith carry the story, and I love it.

The Ordinary Princess, Amy, is like Cimorene in some ways, like not wanting to be a princess. (Enchanted Forest series, by Wrede. Add it to your list.) But in others, she is very different. Amy doesn’t have a spitfire personality. She never picks up a weapon and doesn’t know any magic or even how to cook. She never fights anyone and doesn’t have any enemies. Amy is a cheerful, gentle soul. But when her parents decide to hire a dragon to attract a suitor, she runs away to protect her kingdom and ends up working as a kitchen maid until she’s drooping with exhaustion. I call that strength.

In the Crown Duel duology, our heroine does fight with a sword (very badly) and ride a horse (adequately) and try to improve politics (oh-so-disastrously). She doesn’t even know how to read, but I can’t call her weak. She keeps trying against overwhelming odds, even when torture and execution seem the inevitable next steps. And (spoiler) she wins. Not by feat of arms or might of army, but by one voice saying the right thing for morally right reasons. How strong can you get?

The heroine of Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is another non-combatant. I almost said non-fighter, but she does fight. She fights for her family’s financial security with her wits. She turns enemies into friends or finds ways to render them helpless, and all without a weapon. By the end of the story, her father, long thought cursed because he had only seven daughters, is praising her name and counting her better than his brother’s seven sons. Smart and caring is strong, too.

I could name more, but I think I’ve babbled long enough. Which characters in books you’ve read impressed YOU with their strength? What kind of strength did they have? What strength do you wish you had?

Trying to be stronger,
M. C. Lee

Books I Had to Buy

Obviously, I read enough that I can’t possibly buy every book I read. I can’t even buy every book I RE-read. That’s why I love my public library. 🙂

But there are some books that I bought from my teeny book budget because I couldn’t stand not having them around whenever the craving hit. Here are some of them.

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. A classic for a reason. Despite being slightly light on characters, heart and meaning are written into every book. I have the original-order set, both for sentimental reasons and because they are more meaningful when read in the order the author intended.

The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. I am permanently in love with the characters. Permanently. Don’t fight me on this, because I. Will. Win.

The Great and Terrible Quest, by Margaret Lovett. I had to search this one out on the internet, but it was so worth it. This one is less well-known, so let me tell you a bit about it. A young boy hides a wounded man from his nasty grandfather and his band of thieves, then decides to help the man succeed in his forgotten quest. And by forgotten, I mean the man has amnesia, but whatever memory he lost is important enough to keep him moving despite a split head. Because nobody in the story knows what’s going on for a while, it can be confusing, but it’s worth the wait for the reveal.

Minnipin series, by Carol Kendall. I like Gammage better than Glocken, I’ll admit. I love the spunky (but very ordinary) heroes, who don’t fit in but save the village BECAUSE of their differences.

Silver Woven in My Hair, by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. It’s a Cinderella story (oddly enough, with a heroine who collects Cinderella stories), but I love the realistic romance and the heroine who keeps trying no matter what.

The Ordinary Princess, by M.M. Kaye. This is my favorite romance, even though it’s a children’s book. Really, truly. It’s actually marketed as a fantasy, which totally makes sense, because Princess Amy runs away when her parents decide to get a dragon to enhance her marriageability. But it’s a story of true love, and I adore it.

Crown Duel & Court Duel, by Sherwood Smith. Here is another can’t-say-die heroine. I feel a lot of empathy for her social awkwardness and her burning intent to do the right thing no matter what others say or how much trouble it lands her in. I always wince when those two traits wrap themselves around each other in the most troublesome ways, but oh, it makes a wonderful story.

Shattered Stone, by Robert Newman. I used to just check this one out from the library regularly, but then I moved and my new library didn’t have it. Can’t have that! This is a fantasy mystery about traitors and war and lost identities, but I also love the romantic ending.

Enchantress From the Stars, by Sylvia Engdahl. It’s sci-fi, but with a fantasy feel, with a heroine who is determined to do the right thing even if it kills her. Literally.

A Wrinkle in Time series, by Madeline L’Engle. Granted, I like some books in the series better than others, but I still own the whole thing. This is another classic-for-a-reason, and the movies totally miss the reason.

The Baker Street series, by Robert Newman. You can call it a Sherlock Holmes spin-off, which is accurate enough. Though they are mysteries, it’s the characters that make me return to the series over and over and wish Newman wrote a few more of them.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, by Barbara Cohen. A historical fiction about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to make her family’s fortune. Yes, I like strong heroines, and no, I don’t think “strong” means “good with a sword.”

One Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith. This is not the Disney version. Let me repeat, this is the original, not the Disney version. Disney made a cute movie of the book, but he lost the inherent sweetness of Dodie’s story.

The Belgariad and The Mallorean series, by David Eddings. I once stood in a bookstore reading part of the newest book and laughing so hard that everyone stared. Fortunately, I got to do my crying in private. More characters that I love ever so much.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Not for the faint of heart, I admit, but I’ve been hooked since I was eight years old. I’ve reread them so many times that my husband assures me I am a TERRIBLE person with whom to watch the movies.

Most of Georgette Heyer’s romances (with The Masqueraders at the top of the list). Heyer, in general, writes romances that feel real. Real characters, real situations (for the time), real reasons to laugh and cry, and most importantly, real reasons to love.

I’m sure I’ve missed something, but that should give you at least a few days of reading. 😉

What book did you HAVE TO BUY?
M. C. Lee

My Favorite Newbery Winners

I haven’t read all the Newbery winners since 1922, but I have read a lot of them. Here are my favorites, all four or five star reads for me.

Science Fiction

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle. Meg’s father disappeared a year ago, and now three crazy ladies claim she and her little brother and a new maybe-friend can travel instantly across space to rescue him. This has been made into movies, but none of them are as good as the book. Controversial at the time for a children’s book, this has become a classic for very good reasons. I love the characters, love the fantastic settings, love and hate the way the plot makes me think about the world and good vs evil, and love the way Meg succeeds. The rest of the series is also good, though the first two books are the best.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Okay, not exactly sci-fi, but sort of. In a future world, Jonas lives in the perfect society, without fear, poverty, or war. Then his new job as the Receiver of Dreams reveals secrets that could destroy his entire world. This has been made into a movie, too, with mixed results. The book is still better. While not a “fun” read, this is very thought-provoking, and Lois does a great job of dribbling out the revelations until we finally understand. I did *not* enjoy the others in the series.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien. This one is also hard to classify. In part contemporary beast tale, in part speculative sci-fi, this is the story of a mouse who discovers her deceased mate was an escaped inmate of scientific experiments that increased his intelligence to human levels. When Mrs. Frisby’s house and sick son are threatened by the plow, she turns to the likewise intelligent rats for help. The movie is cute, but the book is touching. Mrs. Frisby isn’t as smart as the rats, but her courage and motherly love carry her through the story.

Fantasy

The Grey King, by Susan Cooper. The finale in a series between the Dark and the Light. Memories lost to illness, only a broken riddle can guide Will to retrieve a magical harp from the most powerful Lord of the Dark, the Grey King. Though the book is set in “modern” times, at least in part, it definitely has the feel of ancient fantasy seeping down through the years. Will is a great hero, strong despite weakness, and the book wraps up the hanging threads from the rest of the series into a tidy conclusion.

The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley. Aerin is the daughter of the king and a witch. Powerless though she is, her tainted blood has banned her from the throne. Now dragons are stalking the land, and she is the only one who can fight them. While I would classify Aerin as a strong heroine, it’s not her sword fighting or horse riding that makes her so. Instead, it’s her honesty, her determination, and her desire to protect her land that make her the hero of the story.

The High King, by Lloyd Alexander. Another series finale. When the most powerful weapon in  Prydain falls into the hands of Arawn-Death-Lord, Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, and Prince Gwydion raise an army to march against Mount Dragon, Arawn’s stronghold. I love the characters so, so much, and while this last book is sad, it is the fulfillment of the series in many ways. The characters have matured into even more wonderful people who make hard choices because it’s the right thing to do.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Let’s call this one urban fantasy. It’s set in modern times, but with ghosts and other supernatural creatures. Nobody Owens, known as Bod, would be completely normal if he wasn’t raised by ghosts. If Bod leaves the graveyard, he will come under attack from the man who killed Bod’s family. The book can get a little spooky at times, but isn’t actually horror. The mystery builds and builds, and while I guessed things ahead of time, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of watching the author draw all the strands together into a tapestry. While the basic story is very good all by itself, the little touches Neil adds in puns and allusions made it even more enjoyable for me.

Historical Fiction

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare. Daniel bar Jamin wants to revenge his father’s death by forcing the Romans from Israel. His hatred wanes only when he starts to hear the gentle lessons of Jesus of Nazareth. The historical aspects are good, but what really touched my heart was the vision of love winning over hate.

King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry. The Sultan sent six of the best horses in the kingdom to the King of France! Agba, the mute horseboy, knew his horse Sham would be chosen. But when a corrupt boat captain steals the food for their journey, the horses nearly die by the time they arrive. And the King of France sends Sham to be a workhorse! Will he ever be able to prove himself the champion that he is? I don’t know if Agba or Sham is the better character, but I felt for both of them throughout the story. I’m not a true horse-enthusiast (call me pleasantly neutral), but I still liked the horse parts and the history.

A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park. Tree-ear, an orphan, wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is determined to prove himself–even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard. Tree-ear is another ordinary hero who wins through determination and character rather than flashy skills and big battles. The historical aspects make an excellent backdrop to Tree-ears character arc.

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan. Sarah comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa’s advertisement for a wife and mother. Will Sarah be nice? Will she sing? Will she stay? Though a children’s book, this is a great example of a historical romance. Love grows slowly as the characters get to know each other, and in the end, we believe because we’ve seen why. The movie is pretty good.

Contemporary

Holes, by Louis Sachar. Stanley Yelnats is under a curse that has followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center where the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending every day digging holes. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize the warden is looking for something. The mixed-up timeline is a little confusing, but the reasons for it become clear by the end. Louis doesn’t waste a word as he lays out the clues, and the revelations at the end tie everything together perfectly. The movie for this one is actually pretty good.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg. When Claudia decided to run away, she planned very carefully. She would be gone just long enough to teach her parents a lesson in Claudia appreciation. And she would live in comfort at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She saved her money, and she invited her brother Jamie to go, mostly because be was a miser and would have money. It takes a mystery and Mrs. Basil to teach her how to go home again. I enjoyed the mystery, but the biggest draw for me was the relationship of the siblings.

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson. Jess Aarons’ greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys’ side and outruns everyone. He and Leslie Burke become inseparable, creating Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits. Imagination and friendship are the true kings in this book, despite its sad ending. (My husband watched the movie with tears rolling down his face and accused me of cruelty for recommending it.)

There you go! Fourteen books from the Newbery Award Winners. How long will it take you to read them all?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Get to Know Yourself in Book Club

My sister thought a list of book club suggestions would be great for summer. She said, “List ones that make you think and have things to discuss.” So I was looking through my posts of favorite books and ran across my Personality/Cognition list, which is thankfully much shorter than the almost-200 personality/behavior books I have listed as “read” on Goodreads. Reading about personality and behavior always makes ME think about myself, others, and the world. Maybe it will do the same for you.

This time, let’s go over the Personality books, and maybe another time I’ll cover some of the Cognition ones.

Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery, by Don Richard Riso

The Enneagram splits personalities into nine categories. One of the unique things about this system is that it discusses the difference between healthy and unhealthy versions of each type, and what traits you should aspire to gain (based on type). It took me a long time to figure out my type under this system, but I learned a lot about myself when I did.

The Color Code: A New Way to See Yourself, Your Relationships, and Life, by Taylor Hartman

The Color Code sorts people by motivation: power, intimacy, peace, fun (or a combination). It also helpfully discusses how to deal with people of other “colors” in more productive and less frustrating ways. For instance, red and blue are the most controlling colors, but for completely different reasons. If you don’t understand WHY they are trying to control you, you might fight the battle on the wrong front entirely.

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better, by Gretch Ruben

The Four Tendencies sorts people by how they respond to external or internal expectations. If you’ve ever wondered why some people can set and follow goals all by themselves and others can’t, this is for you. This one also gives tips on how to deal with people of other types. If you have a rebellious (by nature, not stress) teen in your life, you can learn tips here.

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, by Gary Chapman

Love Languages has a narrow focus on how to feel/share appreciation, but in that field, it’s a gem. If you’ve ever lavished extra loving care on your significant other, only to have him/her complain that you never appreciate them, you probably have a disconnect in your love languages. This book can tell you how to identify and fix that. My significant other and I have very different primary languages but the same secondary. We use our secondary a lot…

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, by Anne Bogel

Reading People is the “sampler” book of personality discussion. It dips into the Meyers-Briggs (16 Personalities), the Enneagram, StrengthsFinder, Highly Sensitive People, and more. It doesn’t discuss any of them in “enough” detail, but if you’re looking for variety or want to figure out where to go next, this might be the book for you.

So, do any of these sound like something your book club would like to read and discuss?

Happy reading and personality-analyzing,
M. C. Lee